My comments on excerpts from the following “Desiring God” blog post:
Seven Things the Bible Says About Evil
By Johnathon Bowers | Oct 18, 2011 05:00 pm
How can we reconcile God’s sweeping control over creation with the existence of such horrors as cancer, famine, genocide, sexual abuse, tsunamis, and terrorism?
Voltaire sums up the issue nicely in his “Poem on the Lisbon Disaster,” written after the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755:
‘Ill could not from a perfect being spring,
Nor from another, since God’s sovereign king.’
[Voltaire’s] point is that since God is good, he can’t properly be the source of evil. Likewise, if God is all-powerful, no one else can thwart his intentions. So we’re stuck, it seems. Who’s to blame for the suffering we experience? Though we lack the space here for an extended discussion, let’s consider seven biblical affirmations.
CD: Infidels like Voltaire are more honest and forthright in their rebellious sentiments than pseudo-Christians like Bowers who make a futile attempt to conceal their mutiny under the cloak of false humility and piety. Voltaire appears to reason that since there is something he might judge as “evil” then either no perfect or good God exists, or if a God does exist then He is not perfect and not good. In this case Voltaire would be suppressing the truth in unrighteousness since he can’t even define “evil” without presupposing the truth of Scripture.
Voltaire would be yet another instance of a “felicitous inconsistency” among the God-haters who irrationally and illogically attempt to draw biblical conclusions from atheistic premises (cf. Psalm 14:1).
Consider an Arminian concluding an argument with: “Therefore, God is sovereign.” Now is that a biblical conclusion? Well, if we know the various Arminian premises then the answer is: “Well, only superficially so since the Arminian in starting with atheistic (cf. Psalm 14:1) premises, must redefine, distort, and suppress the biblical conclusion that “God is sovereign.” Obviously I’m using the much broader definition of “atheist” that is found in Psalm 14:1 to include BOTH Voltaire and Bowers.
3. God is good.
Whatever we say about God’s sovereignty over evil (and say we will; see below), we must never imply that God is corrupt, that he somehow nurses a dark side. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).
CD: For God to actively cause the devil (or demons) to tempt a man and then actively cause that man to succumb to the temptation is NOT to tempt. To actively cause the sin is NOT to tempt nor is it to force since these terms are infinitely TOO WEAK to convey the biblical concept of irresistible power and wrath (cf. Romans 9:17-22). Given the fact that Bowers thinks God’s goodness and evil require reconciliation reveals that he believes the God of the Bible to be corrupt. Voltaire and Bowers have aligned themselves with Paul’s objector’s views which is that God “somehow nurses a dark side” when He unconditionally and actively causes a man to sin (cf. Romans 9:19).
4. God ordains all things that come to pass, including evil.
God does whatever he pleases (Psalm 135:6). To be sure, this means he clothes lilies and feeds birds (Matthew 6:26, 28). But he also makes lightning (Psalm 135:7). He strikes down firstborn children and kills mighty kings (Psalm 135:8). Our God holds sway over the good, the bad, and the ugly. “I form light and create darkness,” he says. “I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).
5. Man is responsible for his actions.
Lest we fall into fatalism, we should remember that God’s sovereignty never excuses wrongdoing. When a man commits murder, the blood is on his hands. “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22).
CD: Paul’s objector thought that God’s causing him to sin excused his wrongdoing. If Bowers thinks that the unconditional and active hardening in Romans 9 implies fatalism then he hasn’t a clue as to what fatalism is. In fatalism:
“… an event is predetermined in such a way that the same outcome will result ‘no matter what you do,’ that is, regardless of means. But under divine determinism, although it ‘matters’ what you do, ‘what you do’ is also immutably predetermined in the first place. And it ‘matters’ because there is a definite relationship between ‘what you do’ and the outcome, although even this relationship is determined and controlled by God” (Vincent Cheung).
CD: So in the biblical doctrine of unconditional and active hardening things are much more controlled than in the unbiblical doctrine of fatalism. If Bowers thinks that the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty is fatalistic, then he doesn’t know what fatalism is and raises a straw man against the biblical position.
6. God did not spare his own Son.
The cross speaks to our theology of suffering in at least two ways. First, it shows us that God can will something to happen that he opposes. Proverbs 6:16-17 tells us that God hates “hands that shed innocent blood.” And yet he sent his Son to suffer precisely that fate. Is this a mystery? Absolutely. But it is not nonsense. We can look at evil and with no contradiction say, “This is wrong, and God has willed that it take place.” Listen to how Peter describes the crucifixion: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23, emphasis mine).
CD: The short response here to Bowers’ claim of “mystery”: Bowers is an irreverent rebel against the Most High who pontificates pseudo-pious nonsense.